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Nuke Terrorism an Urgent Threat, Rep. Wilson Says

By John Fleck
Journal Staff Writer
    The threat of a terrorist with a nuclear weapon is an urgent problem that requires a concerted U.S. government response, Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., said Wednesday.
    "Nuclear proliferation" no longer merely means new nations getting nuclear weapons, but now must also include the risk of terrorists getting them, according to a House Policy Committee report released Wednesday.
    Wilson, who chaired the group that prepared the report, said in a telephone interview that the ultimate nightmare is a nuclear weapon in terrorists' hands. But it is not the only threat, she said. Among the other risks:
  • Rogue states getting nuclear weapons.
  • The collapse of a government that has nuclear weapons.
  • Regime change in a state that has nuclear power, allowing the new government to more quickly make the leap to nuclear weapons.
        The United States is among eight nations either known or believed to have nuclear weapons. Others include Pakistan and India, the most recent entrants to the nuclear club, and Israel, which is believed to have nuclear weapons but has never admitted it. Britain, France, Russia and China also have nuclear arsenals.
        North Korea and Iran are mentioned as countries that may be trying to develop a nuclear arsenal.
        Wilson chairs the House Policy Committee's Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, which prepared the report.
        Wilson, in a telephone interview Wednesday, said the United States has had some success enforcing nonproliferation policies. The U.S. government, for example, helped shut down a nuclear technology black market in Pakistan, and U.S. forces now have permission to board Liberian and Panamanian ships to see if they are carrying clandestine nuclear cargo.
        But the U.S. initiatives lack a "comprehensive approach," Wilson said.
        Wilson said the world community faces two critical challenges. The first is to prevent the emergence of new nuclear-weapons states. The second is to make sure nuclear material and know-how are not transferred to terrorists.
        Nuclear deterrence can be sufficient to prevent a nation from mounting a nuclear attack, she said, but that will not work with terrorists.
        "Those groups are not deterrable," she said.
        International arms control treaties should be used, she said, but added, "They are not enough."
        Treaties, for example, did not prevent India and Pakistan from developing nuclear weapons when they decided it was in their interest to deal with regional threats.
        "The nations that actively seek nuclear weapons have been largely uninterested in limiting their efforts or in honoring agreements," the report said.
        Among the steps to be taken, Wilson said, are assuring U.S. allies that they will be protected by the United States' nuclear arsenal so they will not feel the need to develop their own weapons.
        Technology and intelligence networks to detect clandestine nuclear work also must be improved, the report says.
    Wilson Will Return to Intelligence Panel
        WASHINGTON— Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., was dropped from the House Armed Services Committee this week, but she will return to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence where she first served in the late 1990s.
        Wilson, who also serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, will chair the intelligence panel's Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence.
        The congresswoman had sought to continue service on the Armed Services Committee, but she was unable to get a "waiver" to serve on both committees from Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who is chairman of the House energy panel.
        Wilson, an Air Force Academy graduate, said she is excited about moving to the intelligence committee, which has taken on a much higher profile role in Congress since the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
        The committee has some oversight of the nuclear weapons work performed at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories in New Mexico, Wilson said.
        "I'm very, very happy to get back to intelligence and particularly honored to be given a subcommittee chairmanship," Wilson said.